Shape Shifters and Goddesses
Though Basque mythology was largely overtaken by Christianity, some Basques still believe in the legends of the “old country,” in which Lurra (the Earth) is the center of the universe. Some of the most important mythological characters are Ama Lurra (Mother Earth), the goddess Eguzi Amandrea (Grandmother Sun) and Ilargi Amandrea (Grandmother Moon). Mari is the Mother Goddess of Old Europe and personifies natural phenomena as well as all the animals. Other mythological characters include Olentzaro, a charcoal maker who, much like Santa, delivers presents to children on Christmas by way of their chimneys; Sorgin, a wicked witch who can shapeshift into animals; and Lamia, a beautiful mermaid-like creature.
Sports and Leisure
If the culture thus far sounds exotic, you’ll recognize this next centuries-old Basque tradition, held annually about an hour south of San Sebastián in Pamplona: the running of the bulls. A weeklong celebration honoring St. Fermin, Pamplona’s patron saint, this festival has attracted hundreds of thousands of thrill seekers who want to be a part of the dangerous spectacle. The practice began simply as a way to herd bulls from their corral to the bullfighting ring but was later adopted into the festivities of St. Fermin’s festival, which today includes a pyrotechnic rocket launch known as txupinazo, processions, a noisemaking event called El Struendo (The Roar), a parade, and traditional Basque sports including aizkolaris (wood chopping) and harri-jasotze (stone lifting). Pelota (Basque hand ball) is perhaps the most competitive activity among the Basque people today and creativity flows at bertsolaris, improvisational Basque musical poetry slams.
Get a taste of tantalizing Basque culture as part of our 4-night Basque Country land program on our Taste of Bordeaux river cruise!